Our Strategic Vision

Student Voices: Theo’s Journey Back to MS

My life at Brooklyn Friends School began in the Blue Room. One of my earliest memories was seeing giants walk the halls, and it was only later that I understood that these were students from the Upper School. Twelve years later, I am one of those giants, having just wrapped up my freshman year in the Upper School. It was a year marked by exciting challenges and dynamic growth, both academic and social. Nothing, however, was as meaningful to me as the work I had the opportunity to do with the PEP class, Newsday Tuesday.

By far, one of the best experiences of my freshman year had me making my way back to Pearl Street twice a week, to help teach and facilitate the class, which is part of the Middle School’s Panther Enrichment Program. Assistant Head of Middle School for Academics, Kathleen Clinchy, and BFS Director of Communications and Marketing, Brett Topel, were putting together a news show, with middle schoolers as reporters, and asked me to help out. I didn’t hesitate to say yes because, to be honest, I was excited to get back to Middle School.

Due to the pandemic, I only had the opportunity to spend two full years of my Middle School live in person, but I can report that they were the best years of my BFS experience so far. All of the teachers, students, and faculty are incredibly joyful, uplifting, and motivating to be around. During my time as Student Council President last year, across all of my ambitious ideas, whether it was starting a podcast, or creating the inaugural Middle School Olympics from scratch, I could always count on Kathleen for help and guidance. So, I knew an experience like Newsday Tuesday would be no different.

So there I was, back in a classroom on the 4th floor of Pearl Street, where a group of 15 middle schoolers gathered to brainstorm story ideas, select stories for a newscast, write scripts, and film interviews. We worked on a two-to-three week cycle, at the end of which Brett would edit the footage into a 10-minute episode to be published in the Middle School Daily News (the morning announcement page). The kids I worked with showed curiosity and excitement. Kathleen and Brett were never less than optimistic that the students could deliver on their ideas. We covered a range of topics including international news, with a report about the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. We also covered local news, with a review of Norm’s pizza (the plain slice was the winner). At the beginning of the calendar year, the students even interviewed their Middle School peers about their hopes and dreams for 2023.

They learned how to ask good open-ended questions and move beyond yes-or-no answers. They worked in groups and relied on each other to be good group members. It truly was a privilege to be on such a creative and dynamic team. Being part of Newsday Tuesday also helped me realize that Middle School is not just what comes between Lower and Upper School. From the outside looking in, I learned just how transformative these four years can be. The students who wrapped their last Newsday Tuesday newscast in late May hardly seem like the same people who walked into the classroom for that first day of PEP back in September. They’ve been through a lot and grown a lot. That’s how it goes in Middle School. You start fifth Grade not knowing how to turn in an assignment on Google Classroom and finish eighth Grade with the ability to write 600-word essays. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to support their transformation this year. It feels good to give back to a place that has given—and continues to give—me so much.

EDITORIAL POSTSCRIPT: For the 2023–2024 school year, Newsday Tuesday has been folded into the popular PEP class—The Panther Post—as a video journalism component to our Middle School newspaper.

Theo wrote this story for the summer issue of The Light magazine. You can read the entire magazine online here.